The Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi, regarded as one of the greatest percussion ensembles in the world, have passed down traditions and techniques from father to son for centuries. While the origins of their performances are shrouded in ancient legend, the Royal Drummers channel the creative spirit of a nation through the thunderous sounds of their drums and the rituals surrounding them.
"A constant parade of players improvised on the central drum, dancing to the rhythms, leaping or twirling drumsticks in the air or around their necks. It was all a celebration of ability, the sheer pleasure of competitive creativity, and - strikingly similar to what happens in a jazz jam session - more virtuosic than sentimental." —The New York Times
One of the greatest percussion ensembles in the world, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi have performed in the same way for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from father to son. Their performances were traditionally a part of particular ceremonies, such as births, funerals and the enthronement of Kings. In Burundi, drums are sacred and represent, along with the king, the powers of fertility and regeneration. The origins of their performance being shrouded in ancient legend and mystery, the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi channel the energy and creative spirit of a nation through these drums and the rituals surrounding them.
The large drums "Ingoma" that are played are made from hollowed tree trunks covered with skin. The "Amashako" drums provide a continuous beat, and "Ibishikiso" drums follow the rhythm of the central "Inkiranya" drum. The thunderous sound of the drums with the graceful yet athletic dance that accompanies this masterful performance represents an important part of Burundi's musical heritage.
Since the 1960's the Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi have toured outside of their country, becoming a popular attraction at concert halls and festivals around the world. Their massed drum sound, or the "Burundi beat" as it became known, also caught the ear of Western musicians and they appeared on Joni Mitchell's, The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). Their distinctive sound also influenced British rock bands of the early 1980's, such as Adam and the Ants, and Bow Wow Wow. It was seeing the drummers that inspired Thomas Brooman to organize the first WOMAD festival in 1982, an event that helped to spark the whole World Music boom.
The Royal Drummers and Dancers of Burundi were recorded at Real World Studios in 1993 and released the live album on the Real World Label. Other recordings followed including The Master Drummers of Burundi in 1994 and The Drummers of Burundi in 1999. In 2006 the Company undertook a Sold Out six week coast to coast tour of the United States of America and Canada and will return to North America in the Fall of 2012 to undertake a coast to coast tour of the United States and Canada.
Their live performances are the ultimate African drum experience.